Je me souviens 

Last week’s trip to Montreal with my sons was, I think, the 7th or 8th time I’ve been there. It’s been quite some time, though, since I’ve gone to Montreal without an agenda in place. The most recent occasions have been to make use of the airport, see a concert, and chaperone a middle school field trip – the latter activity, twice. I consider those two middle school trips, by the way, to be my eventual express ticket to the promised land.

I really appreciated the freedom to wander to my heart’s content, this most recent time north of the border, without being tied to a schedule. It’s exactly the kind of pace I desire when I’m on vacation, even if the getaway is only three days.

Since I’m the morning person in our crew, I would regularly find myself spending the first couple of morning hours on my own. After I had my fill of reading, the NYT crossword puzzle and the luxury of not having to get dressed to take Jeter immediately out, I’d get myself together and get outside to walk with my camera and thoughts.

And memories.

Honestly, I couldn’t believe how many moments from that city are locked into my brain, in a most lovely way. 

I visited Montreal for the first time in maybe ‘89 or ‘90. My French born, American raised, amie and I took a ride up for a night or two. Being there again last week reminded me of how much I adored the city’s gorgeous wrought iron work, one of the strongest impressions imprinted from that girls’ getaway three decades (and sons, for that matter) ago. I was also amazed by the European flavor of this place despite it only being a few hours drive from home. C’est magnifique!

While the majority of my trips to Montreal seemed to have fallen between Thanksgiving and May, I couldn’t help but remember another visit which occurred Labor Day Weekend, 1999. My middle son was about 4 months old, and the two night getaway was the longest time he and I had ever spent apart. 

I recall there being a lot of pumping and dumping and red wine, although not actually in that order. 

The weather that weekend was extremely hot, something Canadians weren’t dealing with very well. I thought about the then challenges of enjoying that anniversary getaway, escaping the heat and distancing myself from my infant, the very same son who was now walking beside me as a grown young man. 

Those decades sure went fast.

I remembered another trip, this time with my last baby.  You know, the product of my geriatric pregnancy. We had gone to Montreal for a wedding and I had splurged for a fancy “updo” for the ceremony, something I’d never done before. Or since. When I tell you I looked like a redheaded version of Frankenstein’s bride, I’m not joking. It was so awful that between the ceremony and reception, I stuck my head into the sink in an attempt to salvage my look. I still don’t care to see photos from that day.

The last time my intact family visited Montreal was a Thanksgiving during the Bush years. It was our own private protest against a Republican administration that we considered incompetent and not reflective of our personal beliefs. 

Ha – little did we know how much worse things could, and would, become politically.

While many things have changed since that Thanksgiving trip so many years ago, traditions were created that year that my family continue to celebrate. Peking Duck remains our favorite holiday meal (and the one we use to rate Chinese restaurants everywhere we go) and we will walk great lengths for good bagels. Our family composition may be different, but our mutual appreciation for holidays shared in “foreign” locales remains wonderfully consistent.

Oui, Montreal, Je me souviens – and I can’t wait to return to make even more memories. A bientot!

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